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Desert Diary


Almost everyone seems to like a masquerade ball, where you can be someone you aren't. When it's all in good fun, that's dandy; quite often, though, there are more sinister intentions. Presentation of a cheap item as one of great expense is not uncommon. How often have you seen advertisements for Rollex watches for only $89.98 or some such?

A common mischaracterization tied in with deserts probably is unintentional in most cases, and sometimes it's not even necessary to state it—misconceptions on the part of the buyer are sufficient. I'm speaking of those cute, little cacti often sold in stores and nurseries. The only problem is that often they aren't cacti, belonging to a different family, the Euphorbiaceae. To make it worse, the cactus-like euphorbs are mostly Old World plants, especially South African. The similarity in growth form is a result of convergent evolution: two different groups, not closely related, have solved problems of predation and water conservation in similar ways. Now that you know this, the ball's over: it's time to drop the masks!
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Web Resources

Euphorbia anoplia

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